The explosion felt like a sonic boom.
Danny Morales, 42, heard it crack through his ears and then he felt a sharp blow to his face. A piece of fireworks had hurtled through a crowd of Fourth of July revelers in Simi Valley and hit him between the eyes.
Blood poured down Morales’ face. He looked for his family and friends. Like everyone else, they were sprinting for cover, desperate to get away from the staging area where fireworks were exploding into the crowd instead of into the sky.
The Morales family had staked out front-row seats for the fireworks show two days earlier. On Thursday night, their great views turned into a liability. Morales’ sister-in-law saw a fireball flying straight toward her. The flames singed her hair. Several of Morales’ cousins suffered minor burns. His brother, Victor Morales, 40, thought he was fine until he got home and noticed a welt on his side where debris had hit him.
In all, more than three dozen people were treated for injuries suffered at the fireworks show. They included a toddler and a 71-year-old.
Authorities on Friday were trying to determine what caused the accident. The chaos was captured in numerous cellphone videos. “Run, run, run, run!” a man can be heard yelling on one of them as explosions filled Rancho Santa Susana Community Park.
Simi Valley Police Cmdr. Blair Summey said that the incident began when at least one explosive detonated early inside its canister. That explosion caused a chain reaction that tipped over other canisters, firing them toward the crowd.